Going Deep: Will cold weather affect play calls?

Overheard in the cozy confines of the NFL.com newsroom: "This morning, when I got into my car, the reading said it was 39 degrees. It's warmer in New York right now!"

Welcome to December in Southern California.

Okay, so no one will ever confuse the climate in Los Angeles for that in Anchorage. But the end of autumn is forcing us to (temporarily) exchange our flip-flops and board shorts for khakis and V-necked sweaters. However, it did get us to thinking about winter for you good folks in much of the country and how it could affect your football teams -- real and fantasy -- going forward.

With the onset of bad weather in plenty of places, there has always been the belief that teams would try running the ball much more than throwing it. That would seem like bad news if you're banking on guys like Tom Brady, Nick Foles or any of the Bears quarterbacks.

Teams are throwing the ball at an exceedingly high rate. Overall in 2013, 59 percent of the plays run in the NFL have been passing plays. That's certainly had a lot to do with the difficulty fantasy owners have had finding consistently productive fantasy rushers. Well, that and the ever-present creep of the running back-by-committee.

But a visit from Old Man Winter is supposed to even all of that out, right? Fantasy owners who were worried about the recently-uneven Knowshon Moreno were going to get a proverbial shot in the arm. Giovani Bernard was going to bolster his already stellar rookie bona fides with an even finer finish.

Slow your roll. If past is prologue, that won't be the case in a year that has belonged to the passers -- even more than recent seasons.

Going back over the past five NFL seasons, there hasn't been much change in teams' play selections in the final three weeks of the fantasy season, versus all of the ones that came before. From 2008-12, teams threw the ball 56 percent of the time in the first 13 weeks. In Weeks 14-16, that number actually went up to 57 percent.

That's right, teams actually were throwing the football more in those final three games of your fantasy season. You know, just like we all predicted.

Most teams didn't see a major change in their play selection at this point in the season, but there a few notable outliers.

Yeah, so much for all of the idea that Gio Bernard is ready to take off when you need him most. It also doesn't seem to bode well for Marshawn Lynch, who is also suffering from a pretty poor late-season schedule. It also probably puts the final nail in Ray Rice's fantasy coffin.

Conversely, that breeze you feel isn't the winter wind. It's the sigh of relief coming from Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson owners. Just in case you thought those two teams would lean on their running games for the next few weeks, history would seem to put that to rest.

Neither physics nor statistics were my bag in high school, but if I had any theory, it would be Grant's First Law of Fantasy. Namely that every trend has an opposite (though not always equal) reaction. Or something like that. The number of teams who actually do run the ball more late in the year isn't equal to those who are throwing it more, but they are worth noting.

Huzzah for Andre Brown! Three cheers for Le'Veon Bell! All hail Ben Tate! At least that's what it looks like if the numbers to the left are to be believed. Certainly things are trending that direction. Eli Manning has been an enigma this season -- plus the winds at Met Life Stadium are notoriously hard to throw in. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't have the best matchups looming, regardless of how well he's played in recent weeks. And Case Keenum ... well, inconsistency has been his middle name after a hot start.

Of course, allow me to throw some cold water on this already-frigid discussion. In boxing parlance, styles make fights. In other words, the upcoming opponents for certain teams will have a lot to do with how much they run and how much they throw.

More importantly, teams change from year to year (you might have noticed). New players, new coaches and new philosophies mean things won't be exactly as they were in the past. But trends have some meaning, right?

Look on the bright side, it means you won't have to spend a lot of time checking weather reports this week wondering if the men who coach your fantasy players are scrapping their original plans because of an incoming low pressure front. After all, aren't you really looking for anything to make your decision easier? That should warm your heart ... even if the weather doesn't.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who can't stand snow for more than three days. Follow him on Twitter.

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